The great Olympic rip-off

Rob Ray reveals the double standards being applied as the sporting juggernaught tears up London

Submitted by Freedom on September 28, 2006

While businesses in the designated Olympic village are being given a custom-built new home, local groups are being fobbed off with derisory amounts while being moved to poor locations.

The London Development Agency, responsible for compensating Londoners in Stratford as Compulsory Purchase Orders are enforced across the borough to clear it for redevelopment, are getting a new £27m home in the Lower Lea Valley.

The 440,000 sq ft complex is due to be completed next March, pending the result of yet another compulsory purchase order for the facility.
But whilst the borough’s businessmen will be supplied a high-tech ‘superwarehouse’ specifically for them, residents are not so lucky.
Freedom spoke to Anne Woolett, from the Hackney Marsh Users' Group.

Her own findings have seen a litany of underinvestment and corner-cutting, using the residents’ lack of resources against them. She said: “Ideally they shouldn’t be doing this at all, but I think they should be compensating everyone as well as they are compensating the businesses.

“One of the interesting comparisons is that the local travellers have been moved but into Hackney Marshes.

“They should be thinking about something comparable for the travellers rather than shoving them into cheap leftover space. They’ve spent almost nothing and many of the travellers will have to disperse themselves.

“They’re trying to get the FA to buy off local footballers, so they are trying to get away with as little as they can. The Clay's Lane residents are being moved out, and while the businesses had their legal costs paid the residents got no legal support.”

The difference in how much effort is being gone to is even more stark when looking at the Hackney Marshes’ green spaces.

Most re-homing is sending people to land that is already in use, mostly as public open spaces or as free sports facilities. However, a large percentage of Hackney Marshes is also being bought up for development, as the Olympic Development Agency would be unable to find enough space otherwise.

The land is going for a song, says Anne: “There will be about £1m paid for the green spaces. They are supported in that by Hackney Borough council, who think it is a bonanza for the loss of that kind of space!”

But the £1m won’t even find its way into the facilities Hackney so desperately needs. In order to ‘integrate’ and help with the Olympic construction process, a team is being employed, at great expense. Anne said: “Hackney council are employing staff on their Olympic team costing them £1.5m a year, with the head of the team on £80,000 a year. We asked where the money is coming from, and they are using reserves built up because they had been so ‘fiscally prudent’.”
London Development Agency director of development Gareth Blacker said: "We hope the Beckton site will be an attractive relocation option for some of the businesses.

"We are committed to supporting businesses through the relocation process, and the creation of this site is one element of that." It is one of three purpose-built relocation sites, with the others at Leyton and Enfield.

- In a related story, an international consortium led by builder Laing O'Rourke has won the £100m job of making sure the Olympics are constructed on time and on budget. The victory has surprised industry insiders, as the ‘CLM’ consortium did not have as much expertise as other bidders.

The conglomerate have also had recent high-profile building flops, including their work for the Athens Olympics, and had problems on the Millenium Stadium project in Cardiff.

However members were major donors to - the London 2012 Bid.